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MZ3001 Global Media Global Culture 6 May 2010

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Think Globally Act Locally. This is the core mantra of the marketing departments of international corporations and it helps towards define what the portmanteau word glocalization
means. Richard Tiplady defines glocalization as the way in which ideas and structures that
circulate globally are adapted and changed by local realities (Tiplady, 2003) The term glocalization originated from within Japanese business practices which began to gain popularity
within management circles in the late 80s in the western world and particularly so in America; due in part to the growing domination of Japanese cars in the US. The term is derived
from the Japanese word dochauka which means global localization and originally referred to
adapting farming techniques to local conditions, in the business world this idea was applied to
the marketing of products and effects all parts of the marketing mix, including most crucially
the communication of products and brands. The first Japanese business practices to be hybridized with western management philosophy, for example Kaizen, focussed on improving
production, simply because it was seen by the business executives at the time that the biggest
threat from the Japanese imports were that they were of high quality and of relatively low cost.
The introduction of the term glocalization to the english lexicon is attributed mainly to the
British sociologist Roland Robertson in the early 1990s, and this was later reinforced by Canadian sociologists Keith Hampton and Barry Wellman along with Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman in the late 1990s at a time when globalization moved one step closer from being an aspiration of businesses to a reality. Prior to the idea of glocalization, and when globalization was in its infancy, leading Harvard business professor Theodore Levitt in 1983 published an essay entitled The Globalization of Markets . Naomi Klein in her book No Logo
states that he argued that any corporation that was willing to bow to some local habit or taste
was an unmitigated failure. The worlds needs and desires have been irrevocably homogenized (Levitt in Klein 2005. p.116) What this quote demonstrates is the traditional perhaps
even American view of how globalized businesses should undergo its activities, since the introduction and mass adaption of the idea of glocalization this idea of ignoring local cultures
has almost entirely being eradicated from contemporary marketing philosophy, however, as
will be demonstrated, this is not to say that despite widespread acceptance of glocalization
that homogenization is not taking place.
Crucially, before going on further, the term globalization should be defined. Globalization
thus far in this report has relied upon the commonly sold economic understanding of globalization, the idea that globalization is worldwide economic interaction resulting in a dynamic
global market. To many this definition is inadequate as it firstly; as mentioned, only considers the economic impact of globalization, and secondly it does not distinguish itself from past
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forms of international trade. Perhaps a more accurate definition of globalization can be seen
in the one provided by British born sociologist Anthony Giddens whereby he states that
Globalization can thus be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which
link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many
miles away and vice versa (Giddens 1990. p. 64) While this definition is much more rounded
it could still be some be considered trouble-some. A useful way to understand globalization is
demonstrated In the book Globalization: A Very Short Introduction by Steger (2003)
whereby defining the phenomenon is related to the ancient Buddhist parable of the blind
scholars and their encounter with an elephant. In the parable the blind scholars all feel the
elephant to try and understand it. The first scholar felt the trunk of the elephant and surmised
that it was like a lively snake, another man felt the creature's leg and suggested that it was like
a rough column of massive propositions, a third man felt the tusk and stated it was like a sharp
spear. They were all correct in their descriptions of the different parts of the elephant, but
what none of the scholars could fully understand was the bigger picture, they each hung on to
their own understanding of what an elephant was and ended up arguing over the true nature of
the elephant as a result. Steger argues that states that The ongoing academic quarrel over
which dimension contains the essence of globalization represents a postmodern version of the
parable of the blind men and the elephant. Even those few remaining scholars who still think
of globalization as a singular process clash with each other over which aspect of social life constitutes its primary domain Globalization then is a complex beast it is not just related to economics as we are most commonly sold but it effects political, cultural and technological
spheres to name but a few.
Glocalization is primarily rooted within the economic understanding of globalization, but as
demonstrated within the elephant parable it will go on to effect many different social spheres
as they are all one of the same. Glocalization from a marketing point of view is said to be about
adapting your product to meet the needs and wants of consumers in foreign market. There are
numerous examples of products and brands being glocalized, I will briefly demonstrate two
such examples.
Various global television networks adapt their programming to better suit their markets, for
example the comedy show The Office in the UK is in many ways vastly different from The Office in the US however they both maintain the underlining theme of depicting the everyday
lives of office employees displayed in the style of single-camera documentary. Another such
example in terms of TV can been seen with the game show format Deal or No Deal. The format; which is often described as being a postmodern drama, originated in the Netherlands and
has now been exported to over 70 countries each of which put their own spin on the formula.
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Another example of Glocalization in action; having first misunderstood local culture, and a
commonly cited on within the business world, can be seen with the expansion of Wal-Mart
into Germany. Upon entering a Wal-Mart in the US you are welcomed by the now globally
renowned Wal-Mart greeters The idea behind this is that the welcome creates a more personal feel to the customers hypermarket shopping experience (Towers 2004. p. 4) On entering the German market; done so by a series of acquisitions, Wal-Mart did not glocalize
their brand and as result struggled to make an impact. Upon realizing the social differences
between America and Germany adaptations were made in order to be able to integrate into
their German surroundings, Germans found the greeters too superficial and therefore they
were removed.
Glocalization, in terms of its most common incarnation; that of a marketing action, is the
adaption products for different markets and what this serves to do is to give the impression of
hybridization. Hybridization is A process whereby cultural forms literally move through
time and space where they interact with other cultural forms and settings, influence each
other, produce new forms, and change the cultural settings. (Lull, 2000. P.242) Hybridization is seen as being a organic process and a great of example of hybridization taking place can
be seen with evolution of the Pizza. Pizza, in some form or another, is said to have been
around since the neolithic age, but pizza as we would commonly recognize it is dated as originating in 18th century Naples. The peasants of Naples, and as it grew in popularity the whole
of Italy, would add tomato, oregano and garlic to their flat bread as it was baking to create
what in our modern eyes we would see as a crude pizza. In the late 19th century the USA saw a
great influx of immigrants and there was a large contingent that came from Italy, they naturally
brought with them their culture and traditions. Pizza was reinvented upon entering the USA,
it became hybridized, the dish that was once a simple peasant food; essentially just flat bread
and tomato sauce, started mixing with the abundance of foods stuffs available in a prosperous
USA. Pizzas began getting exotic toppings which could have only been dreamed of by the 18th
century peasants who initially created it and upon moving around the globe the pizza has continued to change. and this can be seen as a basic example of hybridization in action.
I would suggest that glocalization is the simulation of the process of hybridization, it is the
changing and evolution of products, but it does so in an inorganic way. Businesses cannot be
seen as being invading foreign entities or the local populations will reject them, in order to be
able to grow businesses have to provide the image of being integrated with the host culture.
As demonstrated with the Wal-Mart example earlier, upon entering Germany Wal-Mart followed the Levitt school of thought regarding international expansion and tried naively to
overtly force its American culture onto the Germans and they naturally did not respond favorably, therefore Wal-mart had to adapt, it had to hybridize.
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Hybridization however is not a one way street, somewhat like Gramscian hegemony while
Wal-Mart has adapted to Germany, Germany will in turn adapt to Wal-Mart. In the business
glocalization case study entitled Wal-Mart: A Glocalized Company it is interesting to note
that it states It appears however that the German population were not ready for the WalMart greeters (Towers 2004. p. 9) this sentence on the surface appears to be a rather innocuous one however it is in-fact quiet enlightening. What it suggests is that the German
public were not currently ready for the Wal-Mart greeters, but they may well be in the future.
Rather than genuinely adapting to local cultures I would suggest that what glocalization ultimately does is promote eventual homogenization.
One of the main activities of marketing, and particularly marketing communication, is to
change the attitudes and perceptions of their customers, a quick example can be seen with
Aldis current communication strategy; they are seen as being a cheap brand and through
communication they are trying to change the views of their target market that this is not the
case. Upon entering a market companies will glocalize in order to attract a base, upon doing
this the aim of most international companies, it would be argued; and wether explicitly or not,
is to make world markets homogenous, and in doing so the selling of goods becomes more
efficient, it becomes cheaper and increases profit margins. The creation of a near homogenous culture can be seen with the emergence of the global teen The MTV brand is a global
one, and while it will glocalize much of its output to adapt to local taste variations what it ultimately doing is homogenizing teen culture by the way that it presents its content. In No Logo
Naomi Klein states that :
The New World Teen Study surveyed 27,600 middle class fifteen- to eighteen- year-olds in
forty-five countries and came up with resoundingly good news for the agencys clients, a list
that includes Coca-Cola, Burger King and Phillips. Despite different cultures, middle-class
youth all over the world seem to live their lives as if in a parallel universe. They get up in the
morning, put on their Levis and Nikes, grab their caps, backpacks, and Sony personal CD
players, and head for school Elissa Moses, senior vice president at the advertising agency,
called the arrival of the global teen demographic one of the greatest marketing opportunities
of all time (p.119)
Glocalization as defined by Robinson; the British sociologist who first popularized the term,
is as follows: The tailoring and advertising of goods and services on a global or near global
basis to increasingly differentiated local and particular markets (Robertson, 1995. p.28)
But as has been demonstrated their may be much more to glocalization than first meets the
eye. All the definitions of glocalization suggest that companies are provocatively; even compassionately if companies were to be personified, adapting there product offerings to local
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cultures. However this is not the case at all, it would be naive to suggest that the ability for
local cultures to affect the way businesses operate is a one way process, the companies will
also, in a gramsican-esq way also effect the culture of the place they are entering. Glocalization could be said to represent a form of hybridization, but I suggest that it is a simulation of
hybridization, as hybridization is an organic process whereas glocalization is a planned structured one designed to meet specific aims. Ive then gone on to suggest that as glocalization is
on the whole a marketing tool and that its real purpose is to try and eventually, and only to a
limited degree, homogenous elements of cultures and societies in order to make efficiency
savings in order to help maximize revenue.
I believe that glocalization is having a more profound effect on society than is being stated
within globalization literature and in this essay I have attempted to both briefly and critically
look at some potential affects of glocalization could possibly be having on societies and culture.
References and Bibliography.
Giddens, A. (1990) The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press in association with Blackwell
Klein, N. (2005) No Logo. London: Harper Perennial
Lull, J. (2000) Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Robertson, R. (1995) Glocalization: Time-Space and Homogeneity-Heterogeneity in Featherstone, Lash and
Robertson (eds) Global Modernities. London: Sage.
Stegar, M. (2003) Globalization: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press
The Economist (2001) Globalisation: Making Sense of an Integrating World. London: The Economist in association with Profile Books
Tiplady, R. (2003) World of Difference: global mission at the picnmix counter. Paternoster Press. [Online] [accessed 6th May 2010] Available at: <>
Towers, D. (2004) Wal-Mart: a glocalized company. [online] [accessed 6th May 2010] Available at
Veseth, M. (1998) Selling Globalization: The myth of the global economy. London: Reinner Publishers

0708568 MZ3001 Global Media Global Culture